• March 13, 2013

    Saag Paneer {Spinach Curry}


    Saag Paneer is a vegetarian Indian curry that literally means “Spinach-Cheese”. It is bright and fresh (compared to many curries that are slowly simmered for hours), and a lovely lighter counterpoint to a rich Indian meal. I personally like to make it my main course, but hubby does not consider cheese a fair substitute for meat.

    Have you tried paneer? I love it.

    It’s a fresh cheese made simply by boiling whole milk, curdling it with lemon juice or vinegar, and straining it. The result is a creamy (but not too rich) block with a mild tang and nice, semi-crumbly texture. Interestingly, it is made exactly like ricotta! Because of this similarity, I tried this recipe out with both ricotta and its less-commonly available indian counterpart. Both were lovely, but the former just needs a bit of prep.

    To get the ricotta to a a firm enough texture to cut in cubes, you’ll need to remove the excess moisture: line a strainer with cheesecloth (or a clean dish towel), pour in a tub of ricotta, pick up the edges of the cloth and squeeze the cheese to release as much moisture as you can. Then flatten it into a brick shape ( while still wrapped in the cheesecloth) and place it on the counter on top of paper towels. Put your heaviest pan on top to press it down, and let it drain for about an hour. (In the meantime, you can proceed with the rest of the recipe – the paneer only appears in the last step.) If you do go with ricotta vs. paneer, be very gentle with it once you stir it in – it’s a wee bit fragile (but rest assured, even if the cubes don’t stay perfect, it will still taste perfect!).

    The biggest secret to Indian cooking that I have discovered is patience. You need to resist the urge to toss everything in together at the same time – the magic happens in stepwise fashion. Really take your time with the onions – they should be caramelized, not browned or just softened. This step alone makes or breaks a curry. Then add the garlic and ginger. Then the spices. Everything gets its turn in the hot oil (which is not used in particularly modest amounts – the fat makes a big difference to the flavour). And in the end, you need to season it well. A curry without enough salt will simply not taste good.

    Ghee, if you’re not familiar with it, is just butterfat. Butter is boiled and the milk solids are removed, leaving a toasty, delicious golden oil.The grocery stores in my area are well stocked with ethnic foods, so I have it on hand – but you can just use butter (or make your own!).

    The only other ingredient I thought might need explaining is fenugreek – a wonderful Indian spice that is a big component of what we non-Indians call “Curry Powder”.So if you can’t find fenugreek, use the curry powder you can get at any grocery store. It’ll still be delicious, promise.

    If you’re in Vancouver, I get my Indian ingredients at No Frills (on 4th and Pine – they have lots of spices, paneer, ghee), at Whole Foods (Cambie – they carry a good number of spices, ghee) or at Punjab Foods (Little India – 49th & Main – they have everything!).

    Saag Paneer {Spinach Curry}

    A delicious, easy saag paneer recipe after the Indian restaurant favourite. Creamy paneer is simmered in a spiced spinach curry. Healthy and satisfying.
    Prep Time10 mins
    Cook Time20 mins
    Total Time30 mins
    Course: Main Course
    Cuisine: Indian
    Author: Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD


    • 16 oz frozen spinach
    • 1 cup boiling water
    • 4 tbsp ghee or butter
    • 1 medium onion chopped
    • 1 inch piece of ginger finely minced or grated
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp fenugreek powder or curry powder
    • 3 tbsp cream or yogurt
    • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tsp salt or more, to taste
    • 12 oz paneer or drained ricotta in 1/2 inch cubes


    • Place frozen spinach in a blender or food processor, drizzling it with the boiling water as you go so it wilts and you can fit it all in. Process until very finely chopped, but not pureed. Set aside.
    • Heat ghee or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden - 20-25 minutes. Reduce the heat if onions are browning - low and slow is the goal.
    • Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin and fenugreek powder and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the spinach, bring to a simmer, then add cream or yogurt, lemon juice and salt to taste. Gently stir in paneer and heat through.

    Hi, I'm Jennifer Pallian, BSc, RD. I studied cooking, baking and food chemistry in a university lab, have years of experience as a professional test kitchen recipe developer and providing technical baking support to bakeries and home bakers. Want to know why your bread didn't rise? I've got your back.I now work full-time as a blogger, putting the years of science and baking to work right here. On Foodess, I share the best recipes in my arsenal - tested-till-PERFECT recipes for cozy baking, easy recipes for weeknight meals and delicious globally-inspired comfort food, plus lots of science-based cooking and baking tips. Welcome!

    Review this recipe


    Notify of


    Thanks for signing up! Check your inbox to confirm.
    Curried Cauliflower and Quinoa Soup Recipe April 29, 2020
    Curried Cauliflower and Quinoa Soup

    This Curried Cauliflower and Quinoa Soup is such a cozy and satisfying vegetarian meal.

    Coconut Squash Soup March 6, 2019
    Easy Coconut Squash Soup with Turmeric and Ginger

    This easy coconut squash soup is big on flavour. Ginger and turmeric bring warm, curried spice to this healthy squash soup recipe. (Bonus, it’s vegan!)

    Chicken Samosas February 14, 2019
    Chicken Samosas

    Unbelievably delicious chicken samosas. The crispy, golden exterior breaks into shards giving way to the tastiest warmly-spiced minced chicken filling.